Politicians involved in the health act have proposed (1) amendments to stop employment of models with a body mass index of less than 18, the aim being to make thinness less attractive.
In France and as far as Canada, where a charter for a “healthy and diverse body image” has been co-developed by Léa Clermont-Dion ( blogger and writer committed to prevention of anorexia),such coercive methods are criticised as ineffective.
So who should be punished and how? When we agree an offence has been committed, blame must be apportioned to ensure victims obtain justice. But there are many instances in history of condemnation by the ignorant mob. Injustice will put the genuinely guilty in the same camp as the genuinely innocent. Claiming to be an authority on legal blame does not make anyone an expert on the matter.
Anorexia has always existed and the internet has not increased the number of cases in the French population (stable at 1%). It is not a copycat disorder. Many other factors help to trigger it. There is not just one but several sorts of anorexia which are more than an issue of the weight of models. Dietary problems are not bounded by BMI. Bulimics often have a “normal” BMI. Femininity is having a hard time today, targeted by the media and a culture which condemns obesity. These two factors implicitly support the idea of thinness as a positive value. The lack of specialist care structures and trained professionals are some of the ongoing problems. A petition has been running on change.org since 6 February to demand an emergency plan for anorexia. So far, no members of parliament have signed it. What we propose is setting up discussion times with teenagers to help them resist social pressure by taking a critical view of the images they get from the media and helping them to develop a positive relationship with their bodies.
(1) The amendment introduced by the socialist recorder Olivier Véran was passed in parliament on Friday 3 April, supported by the Health Ministry.
Translate by C. Quiot (many thanks)